UK Innovation needs a confidence boost

If you take the national statistics at face value, entrepreneurship in the UK is on the increase. This year it is predicted that the UK will create 600k new startups, (up 3% from 2014), with more people dictating their own career ambitions and contributing to the innovation landscape, by proxy. This growing trend should be viewed in context of the labour market, where full-time employment is increasing and part-time work remains steady (ONS July 2015).

Although data suggests that entrepreneurship is on the rise, when we look under the hood, the foundations of future success are a little unsteady. Working with the Digital Innovation centre at Manchester Metropolitan University,  the Rare: Innovation Index (October 2015) showed that only 1 in 4 (27%) people working in the UK feel highly confident that their business will meet the future needs of innovation.

Within this, confidence varies across businesses; larger businesses feel more confident about their ability to meet the future needs of innovation, compared to smaller-sized operations (large businesses 33%; small and micro businesses 19%). With SME’s taking up 60% of the private sector market in the UK (according to the ONS), this is certainly an area that needs further care and attention.

The frontier of the industrial revolution, the birthplace of the World Wide Web… Over the years, the UK has been responsible for many of the world’s most exciting movements. But given this historical context, why is confidence towards meeting the future needs of innovation only moderate? Certainly with technology exploding at such a fast rate, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to predict what the future will look like. Is there something more going on, beyond predicting this uncertain future? What is causing this dip in confidence, and is this unique to the UK?

Perhaps the answer resides in understanding other metrics that impact how confident we feel at in a working environment, day-to-day: alignment of employee – employer value, job satisfaction, empowerment, levels of autonomy, commitment, culture… The list goes on.

Delving a little deeper,the Rare: Innovation Index indicates a great deal of appetite for innovation amongst those currently working in the UK; 79% of people working in UK businesses want to help their business innovate. At face value this statistic provides some reassurance, but there is another way to interpret this. Humans are instinctively predisposed to innovate and be creative, (Montessori – Tendancies of Humans) and with that in mind, what does this mean about the reaming 21%? It would be ill-conceived to consider this an anomaly. The data indicates that these individuals are lacking in what some may call “engagement at work”. We prefer the term purpose.

The presiding issue is not that people aren’t confident with their businesses ability to meet the future needs of innovation, it’s that they do not feel confident at work in general, and the cultural environment is inhibiting their ability to make a purposeful contribution.